Planning for your next vacation takes more than just copying an itinerary online; it takes inspiration. While inspiration is at times hard to come by, Culture Trip is making it easy to plan your next trip. The company, inspiring world-wide travel through its global network of local content creators, is covering hundreds of countries through video, photography, and journalism to change your relationship with traveling. The company is known as one of the fastest growing companies and has big plans for the future as it looks to expand.
London TechWatch sits down with founder Dr. Kris Naudts to learn more about the company, how it plans to make big waves in the coming year, and its latest funding round which brings the company’s total funding to $102M over three rounds since its founding in 2011.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
It was a Series B round and we raised $80M. It was led by the PPF Group and a number of our existing HNWI. We secured $20M in Series A funding in 2016, also led by the PPF Group, and a number of HNWI.
Tell us about your product or service.
Culture Trip is a fast-growing startup inspiring and enabling people to explore the world’s culture and creativity. Its in-house creative teams in London and NY together with its global network of 300+ freelance contributors have produced approximately 75,000 articles, videos, photos, illustrations and animation, currently featured on the company’s website, app and social channels. The inspirational content spans most formats and verticals, with location playing a role in every story. The company’s engineering teams are based in Tel Aviv and London.
How is it different?
With a global creator network of 300+, Culture Trip offers true location-based and insightful and inspiring content.
Furthermore, Culture Trip’s data-enabled creativity allows it to enrich and entertain its users. With tech in its DNA, it is building tools for its creators and using Machine Learning to bring personalised recommendations to its users.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We are a global platform and have users all over the world with a particularly strong presence in the US and the UK.
We have a large and growing millennial following which is absolutely key for us. Our unique offer also appeals to a broader demographic, so we’re also planning carefully around how we are serving our audiences across the piece.
What’s your business model?
At the moment, Culture Trip makes money through affiliate sales with companies including ASOS and Amazon. Culture Trip currently gets a percentage from bookings made. We also have advertising and sponsored content. Later in the year, the company will launch their own OTA, starting with hotels and later moving into experiences/trips and potentially flights.
In the future, Culture Trip is also looking to expand the company’s ecommerce verticals across industries such as fashion and art.
What’s your personal experience with travel?
I love travel and reading books set in the places I visit before and during trips. As business travel and work are so intense at the moment, I don’t get to see or experience a lot of the places I visit. However, regular visits to our offices in Tel Aviv and New York make me understand those cities a bit better every time, and it’s great visiting them – so I am not complaining!
What was the funding process like?
Fundraising is invariably challenging and stressful. But that’s the way it is when you’re an entrepreneur scaling a business. It’s fantastic a super successful fund like PPF sees such huge potential for us to truly revolutionise the media and travel industries and wants to be a part of accelerating Culture Trip’s expansion plans.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
When raising capital, a big challenge was identifying the right investor to help propel the brand forward. It took me a while, but with the PPF Group I found a fund that strongly believes in our mission and understands and supports me as a founder and entrepreneur.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
A key factor would have been watching our tremendous growth over the last few years and really seeing the top talent and palpable passion inside the business as well as my vision for the future, I like to think.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
With this game-changing investment, Culture Trip is focused on improving the current user experience and value proposition.
New smart tech features, including wish lists, integrated Google maps and planning tools, are being rolled out as the platform starts to offer a more seamless experience for the global traveler.
We have plans to launch an online travel booking division later this year, connecting boutique hotels, independent hotels, hostels and experience providers with the company’s rapidly rising millennial following.
We also plan to continue growing our talented team across the US, UK and Israel. Having been just a dozen people in late-2016, we now have nearly 200 in-house staff and may reach more than 400 by the end of the year.
What advice can you offer companies in London that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Read, learn and persevere. Try to – come what may – add demonstrable value if you are trying to raise a next round. No value added, no next round.
Where do you see the company going now and over the near term?
We are aiming to build a leading, global consumer brand that will disrupt the media and travel industries through its creative content and tech.
We are scaling, building up our leadership team with some great hires from the valley and possibly expanding formats such as VR and AR.
What’s your favorite tourist destination in London?